Local SEO for Multilingual Websites: Best Practices

March 6th, 2024, 09:00 AM

Having a multilingual website can significantly expand your reach and appeal to a broader audience, even in a local market. 

While you may associate multilingual sites with businesses that serve international markets, such as ecommerce businesses, having different language versions of your site can also benefit your local SEO, especially if you're optimizing for local search in a highly multicultural or bilingual area. 

Doing local SEO for multilingual websites is somewhat technical and requires a strategic approach to ensure that each language version is effectively optimized for its target audience. 

In this blog post, we'll explore some best practices for optimizing a multilingual website for local search.

What Is a Multilingual Website?

A multilingual website is any site that offers versions of itself in more than one language. For example, many Canadian websites have versions in both French and English, since they are the two official languages of Canada.

While the US only has one official language, it's becoming increasingly common for American sites to offer versions in both English and Spanish, since there is such a high number of Spanish-speakers in the country.

Regardless of what language we're talking about, having a multilingual site makes it more inclusive and accessible, potentially opening up a whole new segment of your local target market who are searching in another language.

What Are the Top Local SEO Best Practices for Multilingual Websites?

Do Target Audience Research

In order to effectively optimize your multilingual website, it's important to first understand your target audience in another language market. People who speak different languages have different search behaviors, so it's important to do some research to find out what these habits are to help you optimize your site in different languages.

Use Language-Specific URLs

Each language version of your website should have a unique URL structure. This not only ensures a smooth, easily navigable experience for users in different languages, but also informs search engines like Google about the different language versions, which helps with indexing and ranking pages in different languages.

Use Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that tell search engines which language and region your content is targeting. Using hreflang tags correctly can help search engines understand the language and region targeting of each page on your website, improving its visibility in local search results.

Choose the Right Multilingual Keywords

Keywords are the foundation of doing any type of SEO. When optimizing a multilingual website for local search, it's essential to choose the right keywords for each language and market. 

Even different people who speak the same language use it differently, so this is where your audience research comes in handy for determining user search preferences and behavior.

This includes using local keywords that are relevant to each market and considering language nuances and variations, especially when it comes to place names. 

For example, certain city names, like "Seattle," are the same in both Spanish and English, while others, like "New York," change (it's "Nueva York" in Spanish).

Understanding these nuances and variations is the key to optimizing a website in another language.

Translate and Optimize Each Page Carefully

Once you've got the technical structure of your multilingual website down and know what keywords you want to optimize for, it's time to actually translate all your existing content into the new language.

This should be done very carefully, as poor translations can result in content that doesn't sound natural, or that even means something completely different from the original content, which won't do you any favors when it comes to improving your local search rankings for keywords in other languages.

Tools like Google Translate have come a long way and can provide good translations, but it's always recommended to have a native speaker proofread and edit your translated content to ensure it makes sense and is optimized for people who actually speak the language.

Don't Forget To Optimize Meta Data and Media

When you're optimizing translated content, don't forget to update things like meta titles, meta descriptions, and image alt texts to the new language. Doing all this boosts your pages' chances of showing up in search results in different languages.

Implement a Multilingual Content Strategy

While translating existing content from one language to another is a great way to start optimizing a multilingual site, implementing a multilingual content strategy can take your multilingual local SEO to the next level.

This might involve things like writing unique blog posts in another language that appeal to people who speak that language and take their specific needs and preferences into account. 

This not only provides an opportunity to target locally relevant keywords in another language, but also allows you to connect with a whole new segment of your target audience on a more personal level, potentially driving even more business.

Make It Easy To Switch Between Languages

The last best practice for optimizing multilingual websites for local search we have for you today is making it easy to switch between languages on your site. 

You can do this using a "language selector," which simply lets users click on their preferred language to navigate to the version of your site in that language.

This improves the functionality and the user experience of your site, while also aiding search engine website crawlers when they're analyzing your site's content to determine where to rank it.

Wrapping It All Up

Multilingual SEO isn't just for big international ecommerce sites — a multilingual website offers numerous advantages in local markets, too. 

Optimizing multilingual websites for local search improves their inclusivity and accessibility and increases their chances of ranking highly for local searches in different languages, ultimately exposing your business to a wider audience in your local area (who many of your competitors might not be optimizing for at all). 

By following the best practices we've outlined above, you can effectively optimize your multilingual website for local search, expanding your reach and engaging with diverse audiences in a meaningful way.

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